RACINE — As temperatures heated up in Racine Sunday, a crowd of people lined North Beach to enjoy the summer temperatures and watch Jet Skis and other watercraft fly into the air.
They were in Racine for city’s annual Spike ‘n Splash event.
Organizers estimate approximately 125 watercraft racers participated in the U.S. Grand Prix of Watercross’ two-day competition on North Beach, which took place along with a two-person EVP Pro Beach Volleyball competition.
Combined, the events were estimated to bring about $400,000 to the area through food, gas, hotel expenses and other purchases, according to Paul Holley, the marketing director for Real Racine, the county’s tourism bureau.
The Watercross participants ranged in age from 10 to 55 and came from as far away as England and Kuwait.
On the shores of the Persian Gulf, everybody has a personal watercraft, said Abdullah Alfadhel, 24, of Kuwait, who was in Racine for the Watercross competition as part of a national tour.
He is studying law and is a first lieutenant in Kuwait’s police force. But he is “on holiday” right now and is touring the country in preparation for the International Jet Sports Boating Association World Finals in October in Arizona.
While riding Jet Skis is a hobby for the average person, Gary Burtka, 36, of Chicago, who was also competing, said it paid for him to go to college. He grew up living by a lake and started riding a personal watercraft at age 12. Two years later, he could ride backwards and juggle at the same time, and a family friend got him started in the sport.
He has been hooked since and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. After all, his teammate and business partner, Greg Brock, is 55 and he is still going strong.
Brock, of Antioch, Ill., started competing in 2000. In August 2004, he shattered his skull in three places while competing. But that didn’t stop him. He was back competing again that fall.
“It’s kept me in good health,” he said. It uses every muscle in your body, he said, after competing Sunday.
After hearing about the event, Curt Kromke, 44, of Racine, brought his 10-year-old daughter to North Beach to check it out as a Father’s Day activity. His daughter, Alyssa, said she has never seen anything like it. When she saw Jeremy Parr, one of the professionals on tour, do five back flips in a row, she was in awe.
After he saw her clapping and yelling, he ended up giving her his first-place trophy for the pro freestyle competition.
“It was awesome,” said Alyssa.